Library

Library

A list of the best novels ever written – read them to improve your reading, writing and small talk.

Background

I’ve always been a fan of lists of things and finding out which really are the best novels ever written. Each list I came across has its critics, they are often biased to the language of the compiler or limited to a certain time period. My own list merges entries from four sources to create a more complete list of novels you should read.

Thanks to Time, Le Monde and The Guardian for their work (I have also added the top ten best-selling novels of all time, because popularity matters).

The Plan

I’m going to make an effort to read (and in some cases re-read) every book on this list. I’m aiming for just one per month so this might take a decade or two.

The list is still open to suggestion so might expand, as I start there are 269 entries. Taking one per month, that’s over 20 years of reading. See you when I’m 50!

The List

So, without further ado, here’s my list (in alphabetical order). I call it my library and I’ll add links to review of each book as I read them.

A

  • The Abyss by Marguerite Yourcenar
  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  • Alcools by Guillaume Apollinaire
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol
  • All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  • Amers by Saint-John Perse
  • Amongst Women by John McGahern
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
  • Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny
  • At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Aurelien by Louis Aragon

The Big SleepB

  • Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
  • The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco
  • Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt
  • The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul
  • The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • Blake and Mortimer by Edgar P Jacobs
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • The Blue Lotus by Herge
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

C

  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Capital of Pain by Paul Eluard
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  • Confusion of Feelings by Stefan Zweig
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide
  • The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

D

  • A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
  • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  • A Death in the Family by James Agee
  • The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Deliverance by James Dickey
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Disgrace by JM Coetzee
  • Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

EmmaE

F

  • Falconer by John Cheever
  • Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
  • Friday by Michel Tournier
  • Froth on the Daydream by Boris Vian
  • Furor and Mystery by Rene Char

G

  • Gaston by Andre Franquin
  • The General of the Dead Army by Ismail Kadare
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos
  • A Ghost at Noon by Alberto Moravia
  • The Golden Bowl by Henry James
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
  • Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • Gypsy Ballads by Federico Garcia Lorca

H

  • Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe
  • A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
  • The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Herzog by Saul Bellow
  • The History of Mr Polly by HG Wells
  • The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
  • The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
  • A House for Mr. Biswas by VS Naipaul

I

  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves
  • If This Is a Man by Primo Levi
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
  • The Interrogation by Jean-Marie G. Le Clezio
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

J

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Joke by Milan Kundera
  • Journal, 1887-1910 by Jules Renard
  • Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine
  • Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

K

  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Kim by Rudyard Kipling

L

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum
The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum

M

  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
  • The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
  • Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
  • The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Martin Eden by Jack London
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • Money by Martin Amis
  • Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars
  • The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
  • Murphy by Samuel Beckett

N

  • Nadja by Andre Breton
  • Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  • The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • New Grub Street by George Gissing
  • Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos
  • No Orchids For Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase
  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke

O

  • Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Opposing Shore by Julien Gracq
  • The Order of Things by Michel Foucault
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Arendt Hannah
  • Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

P

  • The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
  • Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Paroles by Jacques Prevert
  • Party Going by Henry Green
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • Possession by A S Byatt
  • The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

R

A Room of One's Own
A Room of One’s Own
  • Rabbit Redux by John Updike
  • Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  • Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
  • The Rainbow by D H Lawrence
  • The Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras
  • The Recognitions by William Gaddis
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht
  • Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller

S

  • The Satin Slipper by Paul Claudel
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  • Second Thoughts by Michel Butor
  • She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard
  • The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
  • Le Silence de la Mer by Vercors
  • The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood
  • Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
  • Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  • Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  • The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré
  • The Strange Case of Peter the Lett by Georges Simenon
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Sybil by Benjamin Disraeli

T

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati
  • The Theatre and its Double by Antonin Artaud
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Thérèse Desqueyroux by Francois Mauriac
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
  • Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality by Sigmund Freud
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka
  • Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss
  • Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
  • Tropisms by Nathalie Sarraute
  • The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

U

  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick
  • Ulysses by James Joyce
  • Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
  • Under the Sun of Satan by Georges Bernanos
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo

V

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Voss by Patrick White
  • Les Vrilles de la Vigne by Colette

Wuthering HeightsW

  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
  • The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
  • White Noise by Don DeLillo
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf
  • Writing Degree Zero by Roland Barthes
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Z

  • Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Queneau
  • Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

****

Become a Reader

The best way to stay in touch with me and get updates about my writing is to become a reader. You’ll get exclusive and early access to new short stories and other material. You can follow my progress and come along for the ride.

Head on over to lukemcgrath.co.uk/reader and subscribe for free now.